UN aid continues to flow to Niger despite coup

West African leaders expected to meet on Sunday in Abuja to discuss events in Niger

Supporters of the coup demonstrate in Niamey, Niger. AP
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A UN official said on Friday that the world body was continuing to deliver humanitarian aid to Niger following a coup in the African nation.

“Humanitarian assistance by the UN Development and peace programmes continue in the country,” Nicole Kouassi, the world body's humanitarian co-ordinator in Niger, told reporters via video link.

“We are committed to support and to continue our operational work on the ground, given the situation.”

However, the UN official said, humanitarian flights after the coup have been “temporarily” grounded due to the closure of Niger's airspace.

The UN said that, prior to the coup, Niger had 4.3 million people in need of aid, with 3.3 million in situations of acute food insecurity.

“The humanitarian response continues on the ground and has never stopped … since the events occurred in Niger,” Jean-Noel Gentile, UN World Food Programme official in Niger, told reporters.

“We are able to access vulnerable areas and vulnerable populations in Niger.”

Niger had been seen by the West as a beacon of democratic stability in the Sahel amid a growing threat from extremists, Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group and unstable military regimes.

Mutinous soldiers ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum this week and declared their leader the new head of state on Friday.

There is rising concern that the political crisis could hinder the nation’s fight against extremists and boost Russia’s influence in West Africa.

Asked if the UN had any contact with Niger's military, Ms Kouassi said no official contact had been made.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for the immediate release of Mr Bazoum.

This will mark the sixth coup in West Africa and the fourth nation to fall under military rule in the region since 2020.

West African leaders as well as Mr Guterres are expected to meet on Sunday in the Nigerian capital Abuja to discuss the coup, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

The UN Security Council held close consultations on Niger Friday following a request from the three African Union members, Gabon, Mozambique and Ghana.

A statement was issued by the council condemning "efforts to unconstitutionally change the legitimate government of Niger".

They also called for the immediate release of Mr Bazoum and underscored the need to protect him, his family and members of his government.

Updated: July 29, 2023, 4:52 AM